Sikh community cooks hundreds of meals for stuck lorry drivers

Backlog of thousands of lorries waiting to cross Channel could take ‘days’ to clear

Emily Goddard
Wednesday 23 December 2020 16:13 GMT
Sikh community cooks hundreds of meals for stuck lorry drivers

Members of the Sikh community in Kent have delivered hundreds of hot meals to lorry drivers stranded in Dover waiting to cross the English Channel.

Thousands of truckers have been stuck at the port since France closed its border on Sunday in response to the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 spreading across the UK.

Some drivers have slept in their trucks for at least two nights as they were forced to queue for miles along the M20.

France has since partially eased the travel ban, but said those seeking to enter the country from the UK must have a negative coronavirus test result.

However, it may take a “few days” to clear the backlog of around 4,000 lorries waiting to cross the Channel, communities secretary Robert Jenrick warned.

With access to supplies virtually impossible for drivers, Khalsa Aid and volunteers from Guru Nanak Darbar in Gravesend worked to deliver hundreds of hot meals over two days, so far, to those stranded.

Volunteers from Guru Nanak Darbar prepare hundreds of meals of pasta and curry and rice

Ravinder Singh, the founder and chief executive of Khalsa Aid, an international NGO providing humanitarian aid globally, said he decided to take action after watching a distressed driver on the news say he had little food in his cab to sustain him.

“No one is going to starve … You don’t have to be a Christian to know it is the season of goodwill, you just have to be a human being,” he told The Independent as he was on his way to collection 1,000 pizzas to take to those stranded.

Manpreet Singh Dhaliwal, the president of the gurdwara, said a team of volunteers came together with Khalsa Aid to produce 800 meals of pasta and curry and rice in two-and-a-hours on Tuesday.

They were working to deliver a further 1,000 meals on Wednesday.

Getting a team together to produce enormous volumes of food was relatively straightforward, Mr Singh Dhaliwal said, because the temple had already provided more than 60,000 hot meals to vulnerable people and NHS staff in the local community over the course of the pandemic.

He explained how feeding those in need is a key part of Sikhism.

“An important concept in Sikhism is langar, the free communal kitchen, in the gurdwara,” Mr Singh Dhaliwal told The Independent.

“Anybody needing a free meal is more than welcome to come to the gurdwara on any day and will be given a meal.

“Providing meals to those lorry drivers stranded in cold, wet weather is just doing our part to help those in need.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for us to uplift those drivers and a hot meal is the perfect way of doing that.”

Stranded lorry drivers also received donations of food from footballers from Ramsgate FC and surplus food from cafes at St Pancras International.

Using the rail network, the  Salvation Army and London and South Eastern Railway took crates of food from the railway station to Ashford International on Tuesday night.

More than 5,000 lorries are being held in three traffic management operations in Kent.

The Department for Transport said on Wednesday morning that coronavirus testing had begun on 632 HGVs in Operation Stack, 610 HGVs in Operation Brock, and 3,800 vehicles at Manston.

“We continue to urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice as we work to alleviate congestion at ports,” a spokesperson said.

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